The Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) got underway in Israel yesterday, with Ugandan bishop Alfred Olwa challenging Christians to stand for the truth in all circumstances.
Speaking in the opening session at the International Conference Centre Jerusalem (ICCJ), the Rt. Rev. Alfred Olwa, the Bishop of Lango Diocese, challenged the 2,000 delegates on faithfulness to the word of God in an age where scriptural truth is being undermined by changing culture in different parts of the world.
A gifted speaker, Olwa used his oratorical skills to stir delegates from over 50 countries.
“As the Anglican community, do not fear to take a stand for Jesus. You are either in or out. You cannot sit on the fence,” he said to thunderous applause.
The Anglican Communion, like many sections of global Christianity, is faced with the relativisation of biblical teaching by culture, particularly on biblical authority, the true Gospel, mission, marriage and sexuality.
GAFCON was launched 10 years ago to stand for faithfulness to what the Bible teaches on a range of issues.
In Jerusalem, the city where Jesus was crucified 2,000 years ago, Olwa cited the prosecution of some of the leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in The Hague for crimes against humanity, to draw attention to the fact that life has many trials, some for the truth, like Christ’s, and others for complicity in crime, like the LRA murderers.
At His trial before the Roman administrator, Pilate, Jesus Christ was pronounced innocent four times, and yet was still executed, by crucifixion.
Faced with evil, people have to stand up, Olwa implored: “Some years ago, my predecessors, Bishop Odurkami and Bishop Johnson Gakumba, who are here, located the stream in northern Uganda that was said to be the source of Joseph Kony’s evil powers. They prayed at that spot, and thankfully, that stream dried up.”
*Not long after, the LRA was pushed out of the country by the Uganda People’s Defence Forces, never to return to terrorise Ugandans .
Challenging Christians globally to reach out to the world while contending for the faith, Bishop Olwa, a scholar of the ministry of the late Bishop Festo Kivengere, quoted from the former Bishop of Kigezi’s book, I Love Idi Amin. Olwa cited a standout statement in Kivengere’s best seller, in which the international evangelist, who was one of thousands persecuted by the Ugandan dictator in the 1970s, wrote: “The love of Jesus is like fire.”
On Sunday, while addressing the Ugandan contingent, Archbishop Stanley Ntagali urged the 230 Ugandans not to be intimidated by foreign influences that run counter to the true faith.
He reminded them of the legacy of Ugandan Christianity, which has been built on adversity like the martyrdom of early believers in the 1880s and the murder of his predecessor, Archbishop Janani Luwum, in 1977.
The conclusion of Olwa’s address was met with a spontaneous rendition of the chorus Tukutendereza Yesu (‘We praise You, Lord Jesus’), the anthem of the East African Revival (EAR).
The chorus could have been ignited by the Ugandans, or indeed by any of the delegates from Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi or DR Congo, who are well represented and are heirs of the renewal message of Revival.
The EAR, which spread like fire in the region and to many corners of the world from the 1930s onwards, is one of the lesser-recognised Ugandan exports that, nevertheless, has had global impact.
The 2,000 delegates are drawn from over 50 nations from Oceania; Asia; the Americas; Croatia, Denmark, Wales, Netherlands, Israel, England, Germany, Turkey, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Republic of Ireland, Europe and the Middle East.
It is a World Cup of sorts, only with more countries and players, as the scripture says, in Revelation 7:9, “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.”
Of languages, that diverse audience, representative of much of the world, was so touched by the Kiswahili song, Hakuna Mungu Kama Wewe (There is no God except You) that the Nigerian choir, singing it amazingly well, led it again in an encore that both riveted and pulled in the delegates, singing with gusto in varied accents.
Outside the conference, the delegates are scheduled to visit many historical sites, including Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, which is found in the West Bank, and is administered by the Palestinian Authority.